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Now, in Spring, through our study of John, chapters 17 – 21, we’ll continue to see how Jesus draws attention to the Father and performs the last and most glorious sign. Jesus demonstrates for us what Christianity is really all about: self-surrender, self-death, submission, obedience. These are words that we, and our culture, don’t really like to hear and aren’t comfortable with at all – after all, we’re totally into “rights” and asserting especially ours, aren’t we? Here’s a review of what we’ve been learning so far:
One way we’ve been studying John is by looking at how it is all about “belief” – What do we believe? How do we believe? What brings us to belief(s)? What increases our ability to believe and conversely how are they negatively affected? We examined the different types of “faith” we see exhibited by different characters in John: signs-faith by the people who come to belief in Jesus because they see the signs – miracles – Jesus does. Then the signs lead them on to greater belief as in the case of disciples or those healed or they fall off. Here’s a small review of what we’ve learned so far about the Book of John.
- Entry points for belief in Jesus – belief is allegiance to Jesus – allegiance is following Jesus – what does it mean to know, believe, and receive Jesus? Means to experience Jesus in our gut, in our brains, in our lives, right now.
- John is also a Book of Signs (the many signs that show Jesus is God) and a Book of Glory (about Jesus revealing his glory and the glory of his Father)
- Sign #1 – Jn. 2: 1-11 – water into wine – bold faith –model for faith is Mary, Jesus’ mother
- Sign #2 – Jn 4: 43-54 – remote healing – unorthodox faith – model for faith is the Royal official
- Sign #3 – Jn. 5: 1-9 – disabled man walks – this lame man is a negative paradigm of discipleship, he is a model of signs-faith – initially believes but then falls away and does not persevere when Jesus invites faith 5:14-15 but rather betrays him to the Jews – prefiguring analogous acts of betrayal
- Sign #4 – Jn. 6: 1-14 – feeding of 5000 – abiding faith – Philip and Andrew fail Jesus’ test as they focus on purely natural, materialistic terms; Jesus also summons the crowds and his disciples to a higher level of commitment and ultimately this alienates many. Abiding faith vs. sign faith is a critical motif in John’s soteriology – 6: 2 – it is not those who begin to follow Jesus but those who persevere who remain his disciples – 6: 60-70. Our models for abiding faith are the disciples who become the apostles.
- Sign #5 – Jn. 9: 1-7 – Blind man sees – Christian faith – Jesus demonstrates he is the Light of the World by healing the blind man. The opening of eyes was a natural expression for receiving sight – cf. 2 Kings 6: 20; Isaiah 35: 5; 42:7 or for being able to see more clearly (Genesis 21: 19, Luke 24: 13). It also applies to receiving spiritual vision – revelation from God. This blind man contrasts positively with the Jewish leaders and elite as a man who is open to God – he is our model of faith – a positive paradigm of discipleship.
- Sign #6 – Jn. 11: 1-45 – Lazarus raised to life – Bold faith – Martha; Salvific faith – Martha; Courageous faith – Thomas; Jesus is a model of obedience and surrender – demonstrates dying to live (self-death) Self-death is when we put others first, before ourselves.
John Chapter 14 – Connolly (16) Title: Comfort for a Troubled Heart – Lecture Title: Incarnate Faith
This lecture could have been given three titles at the very least – Incarnate Faith, Trinitarian Faith, Comforting Faith! Lecture was actually titled Incarnate Faith (I had written this on whiteboard and was picking this up from John ch. 1 – Word came in the flesh to live with humankind. This means “God’s truth and God’s life are incarnate in Jesus.” John’s use of “the way” is christological and “sharpens the claim to christocentric exclusivism. Jesus is the sole adequate revealer of God, for he alone knows God fully (3:13; 6:46).”
Sadly, 14:6 is a hot-button item and apparently, one of the most popular verses used by evangelicals and protestant christians to answer questions such as: are non-believers – non-christians saved? (they answer no; personal salvation is only through Jesus because of 14:6); will non-believers go to heaven? (they answer no; heaven is only for those who believe in Jesus, again using 14:16). Thus,14:6 is said to be “exclusive” because it excludes non-believers – nonchristians. In response, here are two different views
of scholars about 14:6:
1) Some who prefer to reinterpret the exclusivism of 14:6 do so in light of a particular reading of cosmic-Christ texts such as John 1:9.
2) Others note that John’s exclusivity is not a claim that other ways to the Father existed and Jesus closed them off. The claim is more universal than that: given the world’s alienation from God, there was no way to the Father, and Jesus provided one (3:18-19, cf. 1:10; I John 5:19).
For us, who are seeking to grow deeper in our faith, and not just follow Jesus but also to imitate him, ch. 14 is a “testament of Jesus.” This is part of his Farewell Discourses, Jesus is witnessing to the Father, it is Jesus’ last “will” to his followers – last set of instructions. Look at the context (John ch. 13-14) and the question Thomas asked, very closely. The disciples are troubled. Thomas is confused – what is Thomas really asking? Thomas says I don’t know where you’re going, Lord, how can I know the way? Jesus answers, I am the way…. Consider “the way”: Throughout John what do we see as Jesus way? Obedience to God’s will, healing, compassion, forgiveness, love, acceptance, inclusivity. BL: Jesus broke all sorts of barriers, ethnic, economic, etc.), and sacrifice (self-sacrificial love). And, throughout chapter 14 Jesus is giving them advance notice of his departure (so their faith can grow) and keeps turning his disciples towards “trust” – believe in God, believe also in me. It should be a matter of joy that I, Jesus, am now going back to the Father. So we have to be careful not to take John 14:6 out of context. We have to try and understand what the text would have meant to its original audience. Ch. 14 is about God coming to dwell with us in the form of Jesus, the Incarnation, and the continuing presence of Jesus in his followers. This has great implications for our spiritual growth. As the scholar J.J. Packer puts it:
“Faith-knowledge focuses on God incarnate, the man Christ Jesus, the mediator between God and us sinners, through whom we come to know his Father as our Father (John 14:6).”
How do we develop the type of intimacy Jesus had with his Father? In 8:29 and 11:42 we saw that the way to develop that intimacy is to keep his commandments – e.g. the love that Jesus has for the father is “obedient love.” The word “works” in the Gospel of John also means doing the will of God. Faith and love unite us to God. To do the “greater things” (v. 12) will require God’s resources. Last couple of weeks we’ve discussed how very hard it is to follow Jesus’ new commandment: Love others as ourselves. Now, we find that we have a “Helper.” We are not “orphans.” Even though we’ve never “seen” God, we “believe”. We experience the continuing presence of the Father and Jesus the Son through the gift of the Holy Spirit (14:15-17) (trinitarian faith).
The Spirit is experiential, not just theoretical, and has a distinct role. How do we hear and listen to the Spirit? In 14:26 we see the Spirit’s first function: to teach about Jesus. [In the other Paraclete passages in John (ch. 15 and 16) we’ll read about the other functions of the Spirit.] Finally, in ch. 14 there are great promises – gifts for believers besides the Holy Spirit. I referenced these very briefly as ‘”comfort” in the beginning (could have called this lecture Comforting or Comfortable Faith – our faith comforts us, as we trust in Jesus our faith-knowledge grows, our experience grows and we gain confidence). E.g. v. 27, the peace of Jesus (calmness and confidence) is a great source of comfort; v. 23-24, the Father and the Son will make their home with those who love Jesus and obey his teachings. Jesus continues to be present in believers, helping them become more like him. Our bodies are the temple of God, the Father, Jesus, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We are not alone and we don’t have just Jesus or one “helper” (Holy Spirit). Instead we have the Triune God. This is powerful, heady stuff. Jesus clearly says he is subordinate to the Father (v. 28) (i.e. Jesus has chosen to make himself subordinate, submitting to the Father). Just how comforting is this? This is why the Apostle Paul was able to say “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” This sort of incarnational faith and deeper understanding of the Trinity can and should give us total confidence in our pursuit of holiness – in other words, our goal to be like Jesus, to imitate Jesus, submit and surrender to God like he did. As we see, we have the most powerful resources – not just ourselves – to help us be obedient and do what Jesus asks: love self-sacrificially, not be troubled, trust in God and glorify him.